Robert Kocharyan

Kocharyan’s Home, Office Searched by Investigators

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) has searched the offices and private residence of former President Robert Kocharyan as part of its ongoing inquiry into the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan, it emerged on Monday, August 20.

The SIS spokeswoman, Marina Ohanjanian, gave no details of the operation when asked.

One of Kocharyan’s lawyers, Hayk Alumyan, said SIS investigators did not find anything that could shed more light on the dramatic events of February and March 2008. “I wasn’t there during the search and can’t give details,” Alumyan said. “I can only say that nothing significant for the case was found.”

The search was reported just hours before Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General appealed Kocharyan’s release from custody which was ordered by the Court of Appeals on August 13.

The court ruled that the Armenian constitution gives the ex-president, who ruled the country from 1998 to 2008, immunity from prosecution for decisions made in his capacity as head of state. The SIS condemned the decision as “illegal” and urged prosecutors to appeal to the Court of Cassation.

Article 140 of the constitution says: “During the term of his or her powers and thereafter, the President of the Republic may not be prosecuted and subjected to liability for actions deriving from his or her status.”

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Kocharyan was arrested on July 27 on charges of illegally using the armed forces against opposition supporters protesting against alleged fraud in a presidential election held in February 2008. Eight protesters and two police personnel were killed when security forces broke up those demonstrations on March 1-2, 2018.

Kocharyan has denied the accusations as politically motivated, saying that Armenia’s current government is waging a “vendetta” against him. He said last week that even if he is sent back to prison he is confident that the European Court of Human Rights will clear him of any wrongdoing.

Kocharyan stands accused of illegally using the armed forces against opposition protesters who demanded a rerun of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. Eight protesters and two police personnel were killed when security forces broke up those demonstrations on March 1-2, 2008.

The ex-president denied the accusations as a politically motivated “vendetta” the day before his arrest. His lawyers have likewise dismissed them as baseless. They have also said that the Armenian constitution guarantees their client’s immunity from prosecution.

In an interview with the Yerkir Media TV channel, Kocharyan again rejected as politically motivated the charges stemming from the deadly breakup of opposition protests which he had ordered more than a month before completing his second term in April 2008.

He also attacked the new Armenian government, saying that is dominated by inexperienced and incompetent individuals who are endangering the country’s national security, undermining its relations with Russia and lacking economic programs.

“Let’s say that I have returned [to the political arena.] I definitely have,” declared Kocharyan. But he declined to specify his political plans or allies. He only said vaguely that he will make “different contact with different people.”

The 63-year-old attributed his comeback to growing geopolitical challenges facing Armenia, rather than the risk of his imprisonment.

He said he is particularly concerned about a worsening of Russia-Armenian relations that followed the recent launch of criminal proceedings against him and two other former senior officials accused of using the armed forces against opposition protesters in February and March 2008.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced those accusations as politically motivated late last month.

Kocharyan strongly defended his track record, however, denying that corruption was widespread during his presidency. He argued that the Armenian economy grew fivefold and living standards improved considerably in the ten-year period. “Money again appeared in people’s pockets,” he said.

He also laughed off long-standing claims that he made a huge personal fortune while in office, challenging the current authorities to prove his alleged enrichment.

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